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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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First Baptist Church

FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH. In 1840, six years before Iowa entered the Union, First Baptist Church was organized by Rev. C. B. Carpenter. Initial meetings were held in private homes. Services were then held in the afternoons in a log house belonging to the Methodists.

The second place of worship, a frame building 18 by 24 feet, was located on 8th and Central. In 1848 this building was sold. For some time, the congregation met in the DUBUQUE COUNTY COURTHOUSE. A Sunday School was organized in 1853 and, with the help of revival meetings, an additional sixty-eight people were added to the congregation.

The coming of the CIVIL WAR led to great internal dissension in the congregation. Growth was halted, and there were even those who felt the church should be discontinued. On November 1, 1875 services were moved to the ATHENAEUM where they remained until 1876 when the size of the congregation reached two hundred.

On February 20, 1876 the congregation announced that it had purchased land on 12th and Main. Funds for construction were solicited by the pastor, Allan Curr, and members of the church. (1) On May 13, 1876 bids for construction were advertised in the Dubuque Herald with plans and specifications done by HEER & NAESCHER. (2) Brick work was awarded to William REBMAN. (3) The ceremonial "first turning of the sod" was held on the evening of May 16, 1876. (4)

Fundraising continued for the pastor and congregation. On June 16, 1876 the Dubuque Herald announced that in only a few months $8,700 had been collected. (5) Pastor Curr appealed to the community as a whole to help; a ticket to lectures held in the Universalist church provided funds to purchase one hundred bricks. (6)

On August 3, 1876 three hundred people from the congregation took the steamer "Josie" to Ainsworth Springs. The GREAT WESTERN UNION BAND furnished music on the way, but dancing was prohibited by Pastor Curr. Adults were then left to join groups of story-tellers or those discussing religion. Children ran freely around the deck. (7)

The cornerstone of the church was laid on August 8, 1876. Into the stone was placed a picture of the next president of the United States next to a box which contained the following: a ten cent silver coin; poem by Rev. Charles W. Skemp; copies of the following Baptist papers: Beacon, Central Baptist, Journal and Messenger, Examiner, Chronicle, Watchman, Baptist Weekly, Standard; copies of all Dubuque newspapers; list of officers and members of the church and Sunday school; program of the Anthaeneum Sunday services; Baptist hymn and tune book; address to posterity by the pastor entitled "To Whom It May Concern;" Declaration of Independence; program of the day's service; Bible; book of common prayer; Methodist hymn book; a bit of Scottish heather; an account of the centennial with picture; names of clergy, mayor and other public officials; minutes of the Iowa State Baptist convention; and a United States flag over all the contents. (8)

The finished cost was estimated to be $15,000. (9)

The building was dedicated on December 17, 1876.

A corner of the church is seen at the right in this postcard of the West 11th Elevator.
Loemker, Herman J., 1868-1937, “[First Baptist Church, Dubuque, Iowa],” Loras College Digital Collections, accessed December 27, 2015, https://digitalcollections.loras.edu/items/show/331.

In 1917 the church property was sold and the congregation was renamed MAIN STREET BAPTIST CHURCH. A new site was purchased on 11th and Bluff and a foundation for a church started. The State Convention had to assist with financing the project as only seventy-five members remained in the congregation. Through membership campaigns, the size of the congregation increased. A subscription was started in May 21, 1921, to build on the foundation with the promise of State Convention backing. Work on the old foundation began on October 23, 1921, with completion reached on February 12, 1922. The final cost of the building and lot reached $42,000.

In 1936 a duplex adjacent to the church was purchased and the heating plant replaced. The mortgage on the church was paid as was a loan made by the State Convention.

In May 1965, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a new church. Estimated to cost $77,500, the new building was planned for completion in time for the 125th anniversary of the church during the coming fall. The address in 2008 was 2143 Judson Dr.

The church at 11th and Bluff was demolished in plans for the construction of an office building for the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, Local 150 of Dubuque. As the cornerstone of the church, an 800-pound limestone block, was moved to the site of the new church an investigation revealed a ten-inch hole. Into this space had been placed a copper box containing an 1897 church directory, several sheets of builders' names, two newspapers, and a copy of the New Testament.

The 1987 through 2014 Dubuque City Directory listed 2143 Judson.



1. "The New Baptist Church," Dubuque Herald, February 20, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760220&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, May 13, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760513&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, June 2, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760602&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "Turning the Sod," Dubuque Herald, May 17, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760517&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, June 16, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760616&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. "The New Baptist Church," Dubuque Herald, October 1, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18761001&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. "The Baptist Excursion," Dubuque Herald, August 4, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760804&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. "New Baptist Church," Dubuque Herald, August 9, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760809&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

9. "Dubuque," Dubuque Herald, December 2, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18761202&printsec=frontpage&hl=en